Thanks to Erin's Daughter for the beta. :D
The kingdom, guarded no more, yet bound still by a spirit that threads through every tree, every leaf, every cave. I shiver slightly as its voice sighs over my skin.
Menegroth is imposing; a great chamber of stone hewed out of the very bones of the earth; to see it crumbling would be betrayal to the hands that wrought it. Two high thrones stand apart at the opposite end of the long passageway that is lit by roaring fires. One for a King, the other for a Queen – for they were not separate, and had ruled as one, his mighty hand and her divine form but two rays of the same, fleeting light.
The paintings on the walls are skillfully carved, massive engravings from ceiling to ground, depicting instances from years lost but never forgotten. They are everywhere, on vaulted archway and domed rooftop, struck with hammer and chisel until the stone sang of its life, the images alive and their memory real. There is something in the stone, water and forests of these royal heirs of Ennor, something silent, a land caught in the twilight of dawn and dusk.
The children stare at their surroundings with large eyes, at the crowds of assembled people standing in the aisles, having never seen beyond the starlit landscape of Lanthir Lamath. Even Dior is silent in mind and speech. He is moved, I can tell.
This is his land now. Where once his grandfather held court for a thousand years, the only Elf to have seen the light of Aman and yet stayed on Middle-earth, powerful Thingol, at whose word the forest sang and the clouds shattered.
The Lord Celeborn's silver head stands out amidst a sea of dark and light ones, bare, crowned by nothing. It reminds me that the famed Telerin colour blesses very few: my father Galathil did not have it, but it adorns his brother's head as a lambent crown, brighter than adamant in this half-lit world. I remember Celeborn as gentle as the breeze, always ready to be the victim of one of my more outrageous games, even if I disheveled his fair appearance; my father used to say laughingly that, if I wanted the world, Celeborn would give it to me.
Dior throws an inquiring look in my direction as we continue to advance. You are fond of him.
I smile softly, watching the solemnity in my husband's sharp eyes. I recall him being a wonderful playmate.
Elwing burrows her head further into her father's shoulder. He reaches up to stroke her head, an absentminded gesture, pale fingers smoothing over dark hair. Her eyes laugh at him, tinged with sleep, and he smiles.
It transforms him. A light enters his gaze, teasing, loving, like the hesitant rays of Anar as it makes its first few steps across the dawning horizon. The world shrinks, and is occupied by his daughter alone, obliterating everything else, even the boys who walk by his side, almost running to keep up with his steps. I realize then that she is his child, borne out of my body, but still his child.
He is beautiful when he smiles, and beautiful when he does not.
Then suddenly he pulls away, and the world is with him once more. I will never understand how he does it.
Celeborn steps forward to greet us. A small company of royally clad elves who all appear to either be advisors or warriors stand beside him, fair and mighty in their stance. His upper forearm is wrapped in some kind of white linen, and I realize that it is a wound, skillfully covered. He looks pale, paler than usual, the glow in his bright eyes dimmed. It is then that I see that all those with him bear some mark of battle – some scars healing, and some only recently treated.
These halls have seen a war, lost a king and a queen, and many have been rendered homeless and countless more wounded. Is this the penance we pay for the jewel? My heart tightens.
The memory of the blood seems to diffuse into the air, the metallic smell pervading everything. No longer pure, Doriath, but tainted – tainted beyond cleansing. The water might wash away the crimson from the stone floor, but it will not remove the aftermath, the memory of splattered gore on proud walls.
"Welcome." Celeborn's says quietly, like a tired spring that has given too much water. He was never a man of many words, my uncle.
"I thank you, my lord." I start in surprise, because Dior's voice is unnaturally deep.
Celeborn turns to me. "It is good to see you, Nimloth."
"And you as well, Uncle." I reply, my own smile filled with affection.
Dior stands at ease, the light from the nearby fires dancing across his face. But his back is straight, and against the stone walls behind him his face is suddenly harsher. He sets Elwing down, and she runs to me.
"I trust your journey was comfortable?" asks Celeborn.
"Comfort was of no importance, but speed was." Dior replies, his eyes glitter strangely, but his pitch of voice is neutral. "The messenger you sent was admirable, sir. He knew every way."
"Before long, so shall you, my lord."
The illusion of polite words does not fool me. Beneath Celeborn's piercing eyes, Dior allows himself to lie bare. But my uncle is no fool, and he knows that Dior measures him as well. Only the air moves in their silence.
A lady stands beside Celeborn, a lady from whom unearthly light seems to radiate like the newborn sun. She cannot be called merely beautiful. I have seen beauty, seen Lúthien Tinúviel's glory remain uncontained in that one word, seen the stars sing on their lonely journeys – of lofty song and beauty surreal, like the music of a river when it murmurs of the sea.
I see it in Dior as well, but it is different, the hymn trapped between mortality and immortality, between man reborn and goddess reincarnated. It frightens me, but for all my efforts at keeping it from him, he probably knows it.
She is the Lady Galadriel, princess of the Noldor, pupil of Melian. Beleriand does not bother to whisper discreetly of her relationship with Celeborn. But somehow, watching them, seeing her hand tighten on his shoulder when he grimaces in muted pain, observing his weary eyes meet hers, and then returning to meet Dior's with renewed courage - I believe that I stand in the company of two people who have grown to depend on each other very much for survival.
Elwing's eyes grow wide as she sees the golden haired lady, and she will not stop staring, no matter how much I move to shush her. But Galadriel takes no offence, and she smiles at the little girl. The air lightens, no longer so sombre, for the lady's smile is as a ray of sunshine on cold stone. Her eyes meet mine, asking for silent permission, and when I nod slightly, she extends her hand to my daughter.
Dior places his hand on Elwing's head, and the little one meets his eyes, so like his own, a light grey coloured with just a hint of blue. What he says to her in that wordless exchange I will never know, like so many before, and she shyly turns and places her hand in Galadriel's.
There is a quick drawing of a breath at the sight of the child and the ethereal Valinorean maiden, and somehow I know it comes from Celeborn.
My husband's hand comes to rest on my shoulder. I follow his gaze to the silver-tressed lord, watching the two with a quiet longing etched in every line of his sculptured face, tempered with a heartache that was probably not meant for us to see.
I have loved Dior for as long as I have lived. And I still do not know what caused him to love me in return. Many times I have asked him, and he replies, but I do not know if that is an answer to the question that I asked.
He changes, with every waning day, content no longer to be simply what he was born as, to be simply Dior Aranel, child of Lúthien and Beren, born in a green land amidst haunting song and stilled time. I am afraid that is why he consented to come to Menegroth, for I see him in the light of these halls before a throne that is rightfully his, and he changes yet again.
Celeborn's gaze returns to us, impassive once more, his eyes mirroring the dark night sky outside. "There is much you need to know…"
Dior listens, but instead of paying attention to my uncle's words, I listen to the murmurs that run through the entire hall. They had been soft, at first, louder now, out-rightly curious.
I hear my husband be called beautiful. Oh, but he is. So beautiful that words cannot suffice to describe him. No word, no song, no script. They whisper that he looks like his mother, so in that he resembles his grandmother, and that there is almost nothing of Beren in his features. That is untrue. Beren's life flows in Dior, as sure as Lúthien's does, and I know that my husband is glad for it.
I sense the pleasure of the people at the sight of the children. Eluréd and Elurín, so alike it is almost impossible to distinguish them, and the rarity of twins is an added surprise to them. Elwing still clings to my hand, her cloud of dark hair floating about her face, and it is she who resembles Dior most. It has been a long time since there were children in the halls of Menegroth.
"…Ha i anirad Arana, ar natha carnen." Celeborn finishes softly.
He is silent then, this enigmatic Elf whose eyes are like the still waters of deeper seas. He is Prince of Doriath, closest kinsman to Elu Thingol, rumored to have been alike to him in more than just his fall of starlit hair. I will be surprised if anything startles him, or if anything is allowed to.
I remember him when he smiled more.
His gaze flickers, and meets mine. Almost at once, his mouth lifts slightly, and Celeborn smiles. I wonder if he heard me. But the smile is gone as soon as it came, and I know that he has paid heavily for every one.
Celeborn turns towards the Elf standing behind him. Whatever he takes from him is wrapped in crimson velvet, embroidered with silver and pearl. For a moment, he stands with his back to us, staring down at what he has in his hands, a brief instant of time when all others are removed from his presence, and nothing remains between him and what he holds.
My gaze travels involuntarily towards the Lady Galadriel. She watches Celeborn, a sympathy in her eyes that is not quite pity, the strange helplessness of watching a loved one grieve.
But the stillness is shattered, and Celeborn faces Dior once more, removing the covering from what he holds.
The weapon that has brought down a thousand enemies, that made Doriath the haven that it was. Blood will not stain it, no matter how many it has killed, in defence or in fury. It is Aranruth, sword of Elu Thingol, a long shaft of fiercely glittering steel, challenging the light to make it brighter than it already is, catching the rays here, then there – until a veritable epic crafted by rays of light dances its way across the silver metal. The hilt is broad, inlaid with sapphires and diamonds in the pattern of the crescent moon, the blue and silver stones flashing with their own flame. It is more than a sword, more than a symbol of kingship, more than a shape hammered in a forge out of molten metal.
Wordlessly, Celeborn extends his arm to Dior, the weight of the sword making it curve, his eyes never moving from the polished sheen of its cold surface.
Dior does not move, and nor does he accept the weapon. He shows no surprise. Instead he looks at me, for reassurance, or for forgiveness; I do not know.
His eyes are aflame. I can see the tendrils of smoke rising upwards in the stark grey, rising, rising, a shifting haze powerful enough to mesmerize the watcher in following him to the ends of the earth. There is a different person behind those orbs, a person changed in the breath of a mere second; I have not seen this one before. His blood commands him now; I know it, rivers of blood beneath that translucent skin, singing of power, immortality and inexorable destiny. He cannot escape, he will not escape, and his legacy comes full circle, Star king, child of the formless Maia.
He runs his hand over the edge, and the metal resounds with a dull hiss as he touches it. A drop of blood appears, Dior's blood, darkly red against the silver shine, then another, then another.
He meets Celeborn's gaze; I know that it is understood. The Prince of Doriath will remain what he was, but the King who commands his allegiance will be different.
But I know Celeborn. I know, even if Dior does not, that Eluréd will now be Prince of Doriath.
Dior notices the sparkling tears in my eyes, and is about to speak, when the words tumble out of my mouth instead.
"Will you say nothing more, Uncle?"
Celeborn his head sideways and looks at me directly, his voice roughened with hidden pain. "There is no more to be said."
His eyes return to Dior. Celeborn bows, the sword held out in both his hands.
My husband receives it, blood dripping on the stone floor from the cut in his hand, not silent because he does not trust words, but because he will not halt the echo of his name.
Ha i anirad Arana, ar natha carnen.-" It (was) the King's desire, and it will be done." (This is in Doriathrin, a much older version of Sindarin, assumed to be the local language of Doriath. Thanks to Ithildin for the translation!)
Anessë – 'after name'. Sourced from Ithildin's excellent essay on the naming in an Eldarin household, it is said 'Other anessi could be given by anyone, and might not even be recognized by the person unless they were adopted or self-given. They pertained to some deed or event or some prominent feature of body or mind. These given names or nicknames were not considered true names, though some achieved wide general use. They were seldom included in the full title and if by wide general use they were, they came at the end.'
The Silmarillion calls him Dior Eluchíl only after the chapter 'Of the Ruin of Doriath', and he is previously mentioned as Dior Aranel. That Celeborn gives him the name is an invention on my part.
In the Unfinished Tales, it is said that Thingol's sword is inherited by Elros, through Elwing, so it is only logical to assume that she got it from Dior.
The Silmarillion also states that Nimloth is a 'kinswoman of Celeborn'. It is an assumption on my part that she is the daughter of his brother Galathil, instead of a more distant relative, thereby making her his niece.